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Callaloo 30.3 (2007) 743-753

Angie Cruz in Conversation with Nelly Rosario

The following conversation took place in real and constructed time.

ANGIE CRUZ: ¿What is your first experience with Callaloo; when was the first time you heard about it?

NELLY ROSARIO: All hearsay, calls for submissions.

CRUZ: ¿This was when you were at Columbia or MIT?

ROSARIO: [R.U.E.—Resist the Urge to Explain. When writing dialogue in fiction, resist deliberate exposition.]

CRUZ: ["I will tell the truth because writing dies when we lie" (I am paraphrasing Gabriel García Márquez, via the playwright, José Rivera.] Confession: I admit it . . . the fact that you went to MIT blows my mind. I'm sorry, no matter how much you play it down, it's still a big deal. You can use both sides of the brain, moving in and out of the left and right in ways that astonish me.

ROSARIO: Thanks, but it's not playing down—I just never bought into this idea of the brain being split in two. I just follow what interests me. But about Callaloo . . . I rarely submitted because a novel in progress isn't portable. Publishing seemed light years away at the time. I'd flip through Callaloo back issues and liked that there were so many different voices, a nice cross-section, and of course, the themes. And you, ¿when were you Callaloo-deflowered?

CRUZ: I remember seeing Callaloo when I was at Binghamton, an undergrad. It was on the shelf of one of my professors. I loved the spine, its white with black lettering, and when I pulled it out, there was always that beautiful artwork on the cover, and you're like, "¡So this is where black writers get published!" I never sent anything to them—it was too early on for me; it was intimidating.

* * *

CRUZ: Many of the writers I was reading in school were also writing for the journal, and I enjoyed the interviews, which reminded me that authors were human. But the first connection I had with Callaloo aside from just reading the journal was when Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert and Consuelo López-Springfield edited the Dominican Issue. [End Page 743]

ROSARIO: Yeah, I remember that, Summer 2000. I was excited that it was so hefty. Not just some little Brugal tourist pamphlet or something. I still have the issue, still going through it because there's so much material.

CRUZ: Even because to me that issue was radical. Callaloo, being dedicated to the African Diaspora, including Dominicans, was a reality check for all those Dominicans out there calling themselves Indios or white. Or on a more positive note, the Dominican issue was like a homecoming. Callaloo offered us, black-identified Dominicans, a place to connect/dialogue with our extended family throughout the Americas. Being a light-skinned Latina, it's always been like, "You're not black; you're white." And then you have this journal for African-American writers, you think "I belong in this world. And I've always known I belong in it, in the African Diasporic world, but in the literary world it's not so clear, especially when you're published and they're trying to market you, and marketing people are asking you questions like "Are Dominicans black? What shelf do we put you on?"

ROSARIO: ¿Black? Of course not. Why would anyone think such a lovely thing when we've got Sammy Sosa, Loida Maritza Pérez, José Francisco Peña Gómez, Josefina Báez, Silvio Torres-Saillant, Aida Cartagena Portalatín, Pedro Martínez, Jacqueline Polanco, Sergio Vargas, Manny Ramírez . . .

CRUZ: I also got to know some of the Dominican writers abroad. Callaloo is really good about linking the here and there.

ROSARIO: It wouldn't stay relevant otherwise. The world changes. Labels change. When I was growing up in Brooklyn, black simply meant African American. Today, "black" is a more expansive label—as is "African American." Increased immigration of the Diaspora to...


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